As he does so often, Bob Phillips, head of Common Cause in North Carolina, had it exactly right with his comments on some pitiful, harshly partisan legislative districts as redrawn by Republican lawmakers, or rather by their hired consultant.
Made necessary by federal court rulings that found some of their 2011 districts to be racially gerrymandered, the new maps – likely in a drawer for some months while the court cases played out – continue to skew districts toward Republicans. That was entirely expected, since the rules for new maps the GOP leaders made for themselves allowed partisan consideration and voting patterns to be used in the new districts. Phillips, long an advocate of nonpartisan redistricting – done after every 10-year census – said GOP lawmakers blew a “golden opportunity to adopt fair, nonpartisan standards” for districts. Instead, he found “partisanship at the core,” and that’s right.
Making things worse is that by calculation, GOP leaders have offered the public a very limited amount of time to comment and offer input on the maps. In reality, of course, Republicans couldn’t care less about what the public thinks, which is the point of not allowing them time to offer their own opinions. If they did, they’d likely state the obvious: Why not form a nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw new maps and avoid what has been a huge public expense as Republicans have tried to defend the indefensible in federal court, to no avail?
Now, of course, Republicans are taking a chance that their maps will again be found to be gerrymandered in the extreme by the courts, at which point the courts would come in and draw the maps.
This story has been like the maps themselves – twists and turns and misdirection and confusion that do no favors for the fair democratic process in which people should vote for their representatives based on geographical good sense and competing ideas, not on ridiculously-drawn districts designed to give Republicans an advantage in keeping control of the General Assembly. If Republicans believe so strongly in their ideas, they should not fear a fair competition. But they do.